News & Events from Abingdon Family Dentistry


Warning: Metal Crowns May Have Lead in Them


We all know lead is bad for you, which is why you have to sign all those forms when you buy an old house that may have lead paint. But a little known fact has been coming to light over the last few years. The old type of dental crown which has a metal (dark base) and a white porcelain covering (called Porcelain Fused to Metal or PFM crown) which many dentists still use can contain lead in it, which could leak into your bloodstream through the porous dentin on which it is placed. A recent story by ABC News and the UK Newspaper Daily Mail exposed this troublesome problem. Even the University of Connecticut Dental School has reported on this issue.

The problem is that many dentists such as HMO or discount clinics obviously need to cut their costs and therefore send their crowns to be made in China, where the cost is much cheaper, meaning more profits for the discount dental chain. Unfortunately, there is very little control over quality overseas, so metal may not always be pure and the FDA has in fact detected lead in many crowns that have been made in China. Since a lead-containing crown looks just the same as a regular crown, you would have no idea if your dentist is placing something poisonous in your mouth or not.

How do I know if I have lead in my crown?

If you have a PFM crown, which can often be identified by a dark metal line around the gum, you may have a crown with lead in it. Without taking the crown off and melting it to test for lead contamination you cannot know for sure. The good news is if you have been going to a good, quality conscious dentist, he or she most likely used a quality USA-based lab rather than outsourcing the crown fabrication to China, so it’s less likely that it would have metal contamination issues. However, it has been revealed that some US-based labs are actually themselves sending the crowns to China rather than making the crowns themselves, so even then you might not be safe. For most patients, we don’t advise replacing all your metal (PFM) crowns, but if you’ve been having strange symptoms after a recently placed crown, especially if the crown was placed at a discount-type dental clinic, you may have a crown with lead in it.

What can I do about metal crowns?

With today’s modern dental technology, the metal (PFM) crowns are actually quite outdated. After all they were invented in the 1950s and we’ve come a long way since then. Today, modern crowns are made out of a pure, white and strong material, such as e.Max. In fact, now crowns are manufactured with a precise, digital process and there’s no need to send it off to a lab because the crowns are made in the dental office, right in front of you. This process is called CEREC and you can find out more about it here. If you’re getting a CEREC crown, you will know for sure it’s a quality material, made here in the USA (at your dentist!) and has no chance of having any lead whatsoever.

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